A- A+

The Search for the Meaning of Life
by Swami Krishnananda

We are all people brought up in an atmosphere of the stature of Swami Sivananda, and so whatever we are thinking is a reverberation of the thoughts of Swami Sivananda. He was, to our knowledge, a superman in the sense that he was more than a human being in the compass of his relationship with the world.

We have been told by him and by other saints and sages with whom we had contact that this world is not all, because everything is fleeting, everything is momentary, as the great Buddha once declared. Everything is fleeting, everything seems to be existing for a moment rather, and it moves and moves and moves. Buddha considered life as a kind of flowing river, but I do not know whether he has answered the question as to the direction in which the river is moving. If everything is fleeting, it is fleeting in one particular direction. If nothing is stable, if nothing exists for more than a moment, then nobody exists. That conclusion will follow.

This was a great quandary in the teachings of Buddha that people have tried to solve. If everything is momentary and nothing has stability for even a moment, then even the Buddha himself does not exist even for a moment, and his teaching has no stability. These questions were answered by other thinkers by saying that either Buddha did not give a clear answer to these obvious questions behind his teaching, or people have not understood what he was saying. There were many people who felt Buddha was so great that his teachings were not properly grasped by anybody.

It is not true that he was saying that everything is moving without there being something which moves. It is like having flying without something which is there to fly. A bird must be there in order that there is flying. Now the bird is not there; only flying is there in the case of the meaning that we try to draw from the Buddha’s statements. Then his teachings are also momentary. They do not exist even for a moment.

This is not merely the teaching of Buddha; it is accepted by the great yoga teachers, such as Patanjali. The only thing is, they have a difference: They say that unless there is a target, nothing can move. From birth to death of an individual there is a growth and a movement towards some aim which life seems to be having, and we are not living for nothing. We live for something.

Is it their meaning that life is all, or it is totally meaningless? Buddha said anityam, asukham: The world is unpleasant and impermanent. That would mean to say that there is no meaning in life because it is unpleasant and it is not at all existing even for a moment. But everyone feels that one should exist. Nobody wishes to pass away after one moment. There is an inward desire to continue to exist and not to allow oneself to fly like a momentary flowing drop in the ocean of life, and there is also a simultaneous desire to live as long as possible. No one will feel satisfied by being told that they will be living only for a few months. It is a horror because the limitation put upon one’s own existence is a deathblow to the longing to exist for a long time. From this people have surmised, by way of induction, that the longing of every individual, of everything whatsoever, is for eternal existence and not to subject oneself to passing in the form of a momentary fluxation.

There are two types of longing, apparently, in every individual. One is the desire to defy time, which catches hold of the throat of everyone and wants to destroy them. “May I not be annihilated” is the wish of everyone, from one side. The other side is “May I have more and more of things.” If I have a hundred-million dollars, I would like to have five-hundred-million dollars. If I am the owner of a property extending to hundreds of acres, I would like to extend my domain. I would like to annex more kingdoms. I would like to rule over the whole world, if possible; why not? I would like to rule over the skies. Why should I be a limited, foolish man sitting with a limited position? The more I have, the better for me. Nothing can satisfy my desire for possession because if I possess something, there is an unsatisfactory condition arising due to the existence of something more than what I already have.

It is said by great Masters that the desire to possess more and more in a horizontal fashion is a subtle longing to overcome spatial distance. You do not like to be located in a particular space and to limit your belongings to a particular area of space. The wider is my existence, the larger is the dimension of my personality. Endless is my desire to expand my personality so that I would like to be one supreme individual with no necessity to contact anybody else, because space includes everybody. One desire of the human being is to defy the limiting character of space by creating distance of one thing from another thing. The other desire is to live perpetually, which is the desire to defy the time process. If you overcome subjection to the time process and also overcome the subjection to spatial limitation, on the one side you become eternal, and on the other side you become infinite. So the longing of everybody is to merge infinity with eternity, which is tantalising. The greatest desire of everybody is to be eternal, defying the time process, and to be infinite, defying the limitations imposed by space. Such a Being, if it could be there, is regarded as the Absolute. In religion we call it God. We can call it by any name, such as the Ultimate Reality, etc.

So the search for the meaning of life, according to what we have understood, seems to be to find such apparatus by which we can become infinite and eternal at the same time. This they call perfection.